Success as an entrepreneur requires more than a great idea. The great idea must have the potential for exponential growth and scale. Is your idea viable? 💡

That is the Question.

 

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

 

Hi, I’m Carol Vercellino, the co-founder of Oak City Labs software development agency, and with me here today is my co-founder and CTO of Oak City Labs, Jay Lyerly. Today we’re going to discuss the differences between native and cross platform applications. It’s a question we get asked about all of the time. Hopefully we’re going to give you high-level [information] and maybe some of the pros and cons between the two. Before we start off, we are  a native shop, so keep that in mind.

Watch the video or read on below to learn more about these two options.


 

Carol: Jay, I know this is one of your favorite topics. Could you please explain to viewers what we mean when we say native platform versus cross platform?

Jay: Okay, so native means that you’re using the native development language and libraries for an application. So I’m probably going to talk about iOS, but this applies to Android as well. So for iOS, that means using a swift application using the native Cocoa Touch library to interact as a system. On the other hand you have cross platform. That used to sort of mean a web app wrapped in a very simple wrapper where it was really just a webpage. But now that usually means more that you’re using a non-native language like JavaScript or C#. And those have their own libraries. JavaScript would use something like reactnative, or C# would use something like zamron. And that’s an interface layer between your app and the system libraries.

 

Carol: what about some of the new things in the market like Flutter? 

Jay: Flutter is that same kind of mold. It uses a language called Dash, which is Google’s language. Dash uses the Flutter libraries to talk to the system libraries, so there’s still that extra layer in there to translate between the non-native language.

 

Carol: Okay, so what are some of the benefits of using a native platform?

Jay: So with the native app, you’re going to get access to everything you’re ever going to need. It’s a wide open field. Also you’ve got one less layer in there. You’ve got your code and the system libraries. So that means less software, and less software means less plugs. There’s less to go wrong. 

Now if you look at something cross platform, the big selling point there is that you get to use a different language. So if you have a bunch of JavaScript experience on your team, you can use JavaScript. Or Microsoft shops often have a lot of C# folks, so they can use Xamarin and make these cross platform apps. And the other big selling point is the right ones run anywhere. You build one app, and you can run that on both ioS and Android and some other weird platform that comes up next year. 

So, the downside with that is – with the “right ones run anywhere” thing, it never really turns out that way. First off, iOS and Android are different. Users expect them to run differently, so you often end up with a lot of bifurcated bits of your code where you have one section doing an iOS kind of thing and one section for Android to do an Android thing. So you get really messy code, which is hard to maintain in the long run. 

Also with the platforms, again because there’s an extra layer in there between your code and the system stuff, sometimes they don’t have access to all features. Especially new things that come out, like in iOS 14, which came out a few months ago. It might have features not yet covered by these cross platform libraries. Or more advanced features. If you have an app that does really fancy camera stuff and you want to have access to advanced camera controls, they don’t always cover the whole breadth of the native API.

 

Carol: Okay, that makes sense. So Apple is kind of known for being difficult sometimes to get your app approved and in the store. Is that ever a concern with cross platform?

Jay: Sometimes it is, because for example, there are certain private APIs that you’re not allowed to use. And sometimes those things change and so with this extra layer, they’ve got to keep up with those things too. So, sometimes people run into problems where their cross platform library isn’t in compliance and they need to upgrade. That means they need to do things to their code, or that upgrade isn’t available yet. Or it’s not stable – things like that. So sometimes that can be an issue.

 

Carol: Okay, so it sounds like the pros of a native platform are you don’t have an extra layer there and you get a whole lot more access to function on the hardware and the operating system for what you’re developing for. Cons – do you think maybe sometimes it’s a little more expensive if you need to develop for iOS and Android?

Jay: If you’re doing iOS, usually you get one good iOS team member and one good Android person and they can go to town. I think a lot of problems with a cross platform thing is you get one JavaScript person and you think they’re going to do everything. And they might have to, but then they have to do these platform-specific parts which sometimes require a littlemore expertise in Android, a little more expertise in iOS. So maybe you’ve got one person, but now they have to wear three different hats, so they’re stretched.

 

Carol: Okay, that makes sense. So last question, and i’m sure this is going to be your favorite one. What’s a situation when it would be okay to use a cross platform app or build something with a cross platform language? And, I worded it that way because I know you don’t like it!

Jay: [Laughter] So, the biggest issue when you’re looking at this thing is the complexity of your app. The cross platform frameworks make really simple apps really easily. Like it’s a great M.O. –  they can throw together really simple things. But the complexity of those things grows really rapidly. So as your app gets more complicated, the complexity of the whole system grows really quickly. 

But with a native app, there’s a little more of a hump – especially if you’re not a native developer – to get into that, but the level of complexity of the app doesn’t grow very fast. It’s actually pretty flat. So with a lot of apps, even basic 1.0 versions of your app, you add enough features that those complexity curves sort of cross, and the JavaScript actually becomes more complicated and you have more burden to add new features than a native app. So in my opinion, the native app is really going to be easier to maintain, develop, and add features to in the long run. If you want to do a cross platform app, the only real application I can see for that is when you have something really simple or really static. You want to take a magazine app [for example]. You want to just make some reader packaged as an app. It’s not going to be really feature rich or really performant.

 

Carol: So it sounds like if you’re assertive, you’ve got a low budget, and you do for whatever reason have to go cross platform, maybe a good thing would be to plan ahead for potentially rewriting in native in the future. Just know that might not be the app that you scale on.

Jay: Yeah, if you’re doing a first version or [working] on a shoestring budget, I think you’re going to hit the wall pretty quickly, and you’re going to have to rewrite that thing next year.

 

Carol: Alright, well Jay – thank you for discussing this topic with me. I know it’s one of your favorites, you did a good job not doing a full-on rant on it.

Jay: Thank you, Carol!

 

Carol: If anyone has questions or would like us to explain anything more, we’d be happy to do that. Just please follow along on our Oak City Labs channel, or you can find us on social media. Thank you so much for watching!

 

Contact the Oak City Labs team to discuss your app idea!

One way to end the year well and set yourself up for success in 2021 is to look at your 2020 metrics! Discuss what worked and why so you’ll know how to move forward.

 

Learn From Your 2020 Metrics

by Carol Vercellino, CEO of Oak City Labs


Machine learning is one of the most significant technological advancements in recent history. It’s experiencing incredible growth, and innovators are making breakthroughs in ways that no one ever could have expected. 

Because of this, machine learning has changed and will continue to change a lot over the coming years. You’re probably familiar with the buzzword, but the fact remains that many people can’t really answer the question of what machine learning is – and what it isn’t.

In this article (and video), we’ll talk about what machine learning really means, how it’s changed over the years, and where we think machine learning will go next.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a process where you use algorithms to parse data, learn from it, and make a prediction.

For example, one of the most common ways people are using machine learning right now is with stock market predictions. You can try to predict what a particular stock is going to do by combining historical stock data with other data, like weather, GDP, and even election data.

On a more personal note, if you have an iPhone, you can label your pet, child, partner, or friend in one of your photos. You’ll then notice that Apple Photos goes back through your album and labels any other pictures of that person or animal. You can also use search terms like ‘cake’ or ‘beach’ to sort through photos. That’s machine learning on the back end.

Machine learning is not where you have a whole bunch of data that people – or statisticians – manually go through (to learn more about the differences between machine learning and statistics, check out this article).

It’s an automated process, and the data is like a black box to the machine. The machine takes that data, dumps it into different models, and tries to develop the best possible answer. So, the machine doesn’t care whether it’s exploring weather or GDP data. 

A brief history of machine learning:

How does machine learning work?

Within machine learning, there are 3 different types of learning:

  1. Supervised learning
  2. Unsupervised learning
  3. Reinforcement learning

Supervised Learning

Supervised learning is when you give labeled data to the machine. For example, you have a whole data set full of cats and dogs. You give the machine that data set, and the machine learns what a cat is versus a dog. Then, you give the machine a photo that hasn’t been labeled and ask the machine to identify it as a cat or dog. And the machine can do that using algorithms and a little bit of human intervention.

Unsupervised Learning

Unsupervised learning is when the data is unlabeled. Take the same example, but instead of giving the machine images labeled as cats and dogs, you leave the photos unlabeled and ask the machine to look for patterns in those images. Then, you can come up with a label for those patterns. 

Reinforcement Learning

Reinforcement learning is much like playing a video game. In a video game, the user goes through a level and gets a reward or badge before proceeding to the next level. Reinforcement learning is very much like that. The automation or algorithms attempt to find the most optimal way to accomplish a task. 

When the machine does well, it moves onto the next task, and it continues to try and get better and better each time. 

What’s next in machine learning?

Machine learning is becoming more commonplace, but we’re also moving towards getting more information around the data. 

According to Jason Burke of CREO, Inc., the biggest problem in the machine learning space right now is not the algorithms or math; it’s cleaning the data and the context of the data. We need to combine statistics and machine learning to get more context around the data itself. 

We believe we’ll see advancements in that area in the coming years, plus more user-friendly platforms where anybody can sit down and use data science and machine learning.

Machine learning will undoubtedly continue to disrupt every industry. How are you going to use machine learning to impact your company, industry, or the world?

Speaking of advancements in technology…here’s what you need to know about Apple’s new iPads, watches, and the iOS 14 release. 

89% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach in the past two years. And the Achilles heel seems to be us humans (we do have a tendency to err.) Take a look at the numbers to see what challenges healthcare companies are facing. 

 

Cybersecurity in Healthcare: The Human Weakness

Using an iPad for work, app, and social needs

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder and Jay Lyerly, CTO & Co-Founder

Last week’s news was dominated by Apple’s event and the release of iOS 14 – a huge surprise to developers like us. If you missed it or want a quick break down of the new Apple Watch and iPad features, watch our update below. We also talk about the opportunities for health tech innovation around the new blood oxygen and sleep monitoring systems. Plus, what you need to know about iOS if you’re releasing an app.

Carol Vercellino: What do you think about Apple’s announcement last week, and what are you most excited about?

Jay Lyerly:  So, Apple announced a number of things. A lot of people were expecting iPhones, but that’s going to be next month, so they’re just focusing on the Apple Watch and iPad on this one, plus a few extra little surprises.

The big update to the Apple Watch Series 6 is the blood oxygen monitoring sensor – you can manually take a reading with an ECG from previous models, and it also works in the background, monitoring your o2 periodically. Other than that, the new watch also has a faster CPU and is more responsive.

Apple also came out with the Apple Watch SE model, which is an entry-level watch. It’s really interesting because I think Apple feels like the watch has reached a critical level of functionality, and so they’ve locked that in with SE. It’s got cellular servers, GPS, and more, and now that’s good for lots of people. And then you have the advanced line for people who want more cutting-edge features – like the o2 sensor.

As far as the o2 sensor, I think that’s really interesting. They didn’t really talk about the applications of that a whole lot. In the context of COVID, I read that one of the things COVID does is suppress oxygen. So, some people have come in with what they call silent hypoxia, where they have COVID, but they don’t have any of the other symptoms. But it’s suppressed their oxygen levels in their blood, so it’s at a critical level where they’re starting to feel lethargic, and it gets to the point where it starts to affect organs.

One of the things the watch does with the background o2 sensor readings is it can warn you if your o2 level goes down.

The other interesting feature of the o2 sensor is sleep apnea. The watch now has built-in sleep monitoring. They suggest you sleep with your watch on and record that data. With the o2 sensors, that can indicate sleep apnea. It’ll be interesting to see how that gets used in a clinical sense.

CV: As a parent, I’m most excited about the family set up. And I’m wondering if there will be any applications for families to monitor medical information for the future. Do they have that now?

JL:  I’m not sure how the family is integrated with the health kit features, but they’re certainly pushing it with both children and older adults – or people in your family who might not have an iPhone. I think it’s especially useful with fall monitoring. 

CV: Is fall monitoring on by default?

JL:  If you’re under 55, you have to turn that on manually.

CV: What are you most excited about with the iPad?

JL:  They bumped two of the lines. There are basically three lines – the iPad, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro. This past week, they didn’t update the iPad Pro as that was updated in the spring. 

With the low end, they bumped it to a new, faster processor and included the neural engine for the first time. That means a lot of the machine learning they’ve been working on can run on that natively now, so it’ll be a lot faster. That’s interesting in that it means that the base machine is still going to have a really long life span. If you’re looking to deploy a healthcare app on that, you can get the low-end machine, but it can still perform really well and do a lot of that machine learning analysis on board, and still have a cellular connection if you’d like. 

The iPad Air update was pretty big. They did a big redesign and a lot of the features from the pro line trickled down to that. In my mind, that’s really the workhorse. If you don’t have a whole Mac that you use every day, and you want an iPad to replace that desktop, the Air is where you want to start. It’s got pretty much all the features now, and it’s in that mid-range price tier. 

They updated the chip in the Air – it’s really fast. And they added Touch ID in the power button, which is interesting in the context of the iPhone coming out next month.

With the iPhone coming out next month, it’s expected to be on that same A14 chip, and they didn’t really talk about its performance at the event, other than to say it’s faster than the old iPads. So, they seem to be waiting on the big reveal next month to talk more about its capabilities.

CV: iOS 14 came out, and there was a little bit of a surprise that it came out so quickly.

JL: It was a surprise! Tim Cook was on stage and said, ‘We’ll be releasing this tomorrow!’ And all the developers were expecting to have at least a couple of days – usually, we get a week’s notice.

When you deploy a new app on a new OS like that, you have to use the release version of X code, which they don’t release until that announcement is made, so basically all the developers have to download X code, get that installed, recompile their apps, do testing, and ship it off through App Review if they want to be there for the launch date. So, a lot of people were surprised and had a long night ahead of them.

CV: Is there anything in iOS 14 that people need to be aware of for their app?

JL: I think one of the things – out of the gate – that has been really popular has been the app widgets. It’s been in Android for a while, but you can do basically mini applets on the home screen, where you would normally launch apps, and provide content from your app right there.

For example, if you have a weather app, you might put a map or forecast there. Or, the fitness app now has your rings on there, so you can see that updated on your phone in real-time. That’s gotten a lot of press because people have been waiting for a long time.

The other thing that is coming is called App Clips. These are really scaled-down, mini-applications that get installed on the fly. So, it’s the kind of thing where you can go to a parking lot and scan a QR code and get a mini parking lot app to pay for your parking space. 

Services like parking spaces, renting a scooter, going into a restaurant, and ordering food, that takes a lot more developer work, so that’s still probably something we’ll see ramp up over the next couple of months.

**The above interview has been transcribed for clarity and brevity.**

 

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Get started today with data management in your startup

by Carol Vercellino, CEO of Oak City Labs


To thrive in a customer-centric world, businesses need to know not just how to collect data but how to manage it. Data management is your startup’s practice of collecting, keeping, and using data. 

When managed well, you can use data to tailor your content, products, and services to your audience and gain a massive competitive advantage.

When we consult our software development clients on their data management practices, we like to focus on three main areas as we help them build their data management program:

  • Data Integrity
  • Data Accessibility 
  • Data Security

Data Management for Startups

Step 1: Protect Your Data’s Integrity

Data integrity is the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of data throughout its lifecycle. The  integrity of your data is critical in regards to regulatory compliance, security, and your company’s reputation.

There’s an assortment of factors that could affect the integrity of your data, but a few examples include: human error, transfer errors – or when data is transferred from one database to another – bugs and viruses, and compromised hardware.

You can reduce or eliminate the risks to your data’s integrity by doing the following:

  • Backing up your data
  • Validating your data when it’s gathered and when it’s used
  • Logging when data has been added, modified, or deleted
  • Conducting regular, internal audits
  • Using error detection software
  • And, most importantly, creating a single source of truth

A single source of truth is the process of storing and structuring all your data in one master location for editing, referencing, and analyzing. Many businesses, especially those who have been around for 20-30 years, have data scattered everywhere. Aggregating your data in one central location can help you maintain data integrity and optimize it to better your business.

Step 2: Choose Who Has Access to Your Data

Accessibility also plays an important role in data management and integrity. You want to create an environment where data is tightly protected but flexibly used. So, as you develop your infrastructure and select tools for data storage and visualization, consider these 3 questions:

• Where is your data stored?
• Who needs access to your data?
• And how do you want to use it?

Choose a data warehouse or tool that can give you flexible options for permitting or restricting access.

We recommend limiting full access to your data to only the people who need to add, delete, or modify the information.

You can use data visualization tools, like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI,  for team members who only need to view specific data sets in order to improve customer experiences or operational procedures. This also eliminates the frustration of staring at an Excel spreadsheet with 60,000 rows.

Step 3: Secure Your Data

Finally, with data management, you want to make sure all your data is locked up. This goes for every company – no matter how much or what kind of data you collect.

For example, let’s say you’re in a market that has a consumer-oriented app, and you have email addresses for your users. If you’re like most people, you don’t often think about securing email addresses like you might secure private health information in a health or wellness app.

But email addresses are something hackers want.  So, you want to make sure all your data – even small bits of personal information like an email address – is protected from cyber-attacks.

Focusing on your data integrity and accessibility contributes to your data security practices. But, you’ll also want to create documentation that details your data management process and implement company-wide training to instill data security as a priority in your company’s culture.

You can use this level of security as a competitive advantage for your customers. Let your customers know what steps you take to secure their information.

Treat Data as a Valuable Resource

With data management, your goal is to treat data as if it’s a valuable resource and focus on bringing all your data together to make better decisions for your customers and business. 

Focus on these three high-level points – Integrity, Accessibility, and Security – as you develop your product or project, and you can build customer relationships and drive long-term revenue growth.

Want to learn more about how to secure your data in the cloud? Read our article, Is Your Data ‘Really’ Secure in the Cloud?

Women looking over computer data to enhance the customer experience

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

 

Even though businesses and schools are opening up, the rise of COVID-19 has brought on the beginning of a new era of digital engagement. Retail, healthcare, and even how you experience a museum has changed forever. And as such, the digital experience businesses offer their customers is more important than ever.

Our CEO and Co-Founder, Carol Vercellino hosted a Q&A with Madison Morgan, Director of Accounts at Well Refined Marketing Agency.  

Watch the video below or read through our transcription to learn how you can use data to enhance your customer experience strategy to be empathetic, authentic, and trustworthy in this new era.

Oak City Labs: Tell me more about Well Refined and what you do.

Madison Morgan: Well Refined is a marketing agency based out of Raleigh and New York. We’re a team of creatives and strategists that help you solve your marketing challenges, so you can think big and act courageously. We like to take all of the marketing strategies in-house and partner with you to take on all of your challenges and help you find the perfect solutions.

I’m the Director of Accounts, so I oversee all of our clients and make sure everyone is well taken care of, and I oversee all of our marketing strategies.

OCL: Why do you think the customer experience matters?

MM:  Your customer experience is really what sets you apart from your competitors. It’s what allows you to make a relationship with your target audience and keep them coming back to you – and not to other competitors in your industry.

As you build those relationships, you’re eventually converting these targeted people from leads into paying customers. And then they’ll become your fans and share your company with their friends, increasing your audience over time. 

OCL: 90% of millennials state that brand authenticity is important. How can brands create authenticity online?

MM: That’s a really great question. My biggest piece of advice is to be who you are. But that doesn’t mean ‘Be Carol as Oak City Labs’; it’s more ‘Be Oak City Labs’. 

So, create your brand identity, figure out what your tone is, what language you use to speak to your audience, and firm up that brand identity, and then stick to it across all platforms. No matter where your audience is meeting you – whether on social media or on your website – you want them to have that same experience with your brand across all platforms.

That’s going to not only create authenticity but also continue growing that relationship with your audience.

OCL: Why is data important when it comes to driving the customer experience?

MM: Data helps you understand your target audience better. And when used correctly, it helps you further strengthen that relationship we’ve been talking about. It builds even more authenticity and helps you make more informed decisions about what marketing direction you want to move towards.

It helps you see what’s working with what you’re doing, what’s resonating with your audience or what’s falling flat, and it ultimately should inform all of your marketing decisions and efforts.

OCL: What are some ways businesses can start to gather data on their customers?

MM: One key, big picture way that’s really easy to do is to survey your audience. Ask them what they want to see, what they want to purchase from you, and even their demographic information can help you speak to them better.

Email marketing is really important, so simply customizing your newsletters or welcome emails to include their first names. Or if you could tag products of interests by including that in the subject line or within the email, it helps build and strengthen the relationship. Ultimately, it can also help you create sales and nurture funnels to speak directly to those interests your audience has indicated.

You can also look at website traffic to see what pages are working well and what’s not. Or taking a step back and looking at general monthly analytics across all platforms. Where are you seeing the highest interactions and where are you not?

OCL: What are some of your favorite tools and approaches for collecting or analyzing data?

MM: For monthly analytics, it can be as simple as a Google Spreadsheet that you type in month-after-month what social media posts are getting the most interaction. Or what emails are getting the highest open rates. Or you can go a little more complex and use something like HubSpot or Sprout. Those are a little bit more pricey and not DIY, so there are pros and cons to both options.

For the surveys, I like using Google Forms because it’s free and you can use it on your own. You can also use paid options like SurveyMonkey.

My biggest recommendation is to use ActiveCampaign. It’s an email marketing platform that’s robust but also very simple for users who are just breaking into the industry. It has options that let you personalize your customer experience.

OCL: Once you have the data you need, what are 3-4 steps someone can take with their data to improve the customer experience?

MM: It’s going to sound really simple, but my four steps are to first, read your data and decide where you want to focus – just pick one target area to look at it. Then, collaborate with your team to see how you can strengthen that area or what you need to do to improve your interactions with customers. Third, create a plan of action with tangible next steps. And finally,  revisit the data and pick another target area of interest to work on next.

OCL: How long should a business gather data before they start analyzing and using it?

MM: Checking in monthly is really good. I don’t think one month of data is enough to make any reasonable decision, but you do want to start looking at those trends month over month. After about four to six months, you can start making decisions and analyzing what’s working well and what’s not in a very informed way.

**The above interview has been transcribed for clarity and brevity.**

 

Enjoy this Q&A? Check out our Q&A with Josh Wyatt, the Chief Information Security Officer with InfiniaML, to learn how to migrate your data to the cloud safely.

3D Printing has the potential to create a post-COVID-19 agriculture world that’s more efficient, less wasteful, and lowers cost for farmers. Check out the possibilities below.

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